- Yasin Khan
The Girl Who Hated Books
‘The Girl Who Hate Books’ was written by Manjusha Pawagi and illustrated by Leanne Franson. The story sets its context introducing the main character, Meena who is borne in a family of bookworms surrounded by books everywhere even at unusual places in the house. But Meena is one in the family who literally hate books in any way. One day her parents were astonished to see her reading books in a room. The journey of Meena from being fierce against books to eventually becoming a book lover grabs the attention of all readers of all ages, makes it a heart winning book.
I tried to put a tentative framework within a limited premise out of myriads of attributes of a heart winning book like The Girl Who Hated Books. The purpose of the piece is to discuss about good story books using Manjusha’s book as an example to make the framework more comprehensible, but not to overpraise the book. Taste and perspective of books is different to every reader so as this review. I hope this will help anyone who ever wondered which book is good one (for children) and especially for a read-aloud.
1. Easily connects with readers
Manjusha Pawagi, journalist cum children’s book author turned Judge, attracted children by entering herself into childhood and portraying the typical children’s conflict with books and reading. She is a children’s writer, not a writer for children. Children’s writers those who write from their own lives, they are in the books, they are part of the story. Whereas, the writers for children write what they think children will like.Writers for children don’t have much respect for children’s intelligence and imagination (Vellanki, 2016).
A good story is easily relatable to. The story of Meena strongly resonates with the young readers. What about the fantasy books that has nothing to relate to but still a great book? Such books have the capacity to visualise or take the readers into the story in a very engaging way that readers stick with.
2. The plot is clear, visualise the actions and takes straight to the climax.
A story that intends a higher order-thinking may take readers at higher level of thought process, yet a book loved by children are simple and powerful. Such stories have not only relatable exposition but also visualised actions throughout the plot. Children are tireless beings who love actions in what they hear and see. In the eyes of adults, children are underestimated folks but they are little heroes in themselves who always want to take lead. When a little hero takes the lead in the story it increases dopamine to read further.
Meena moves around inside the house from room to room, where books catch her eyes and foot everywhere she steps in and she screamed it out. Her adventure of climbing on piles of books and stumbling with Max, another one who hate books not less than Meena, over the books inside the rooms filled with it. Manjusha has beautifully visualised the conflict with books and the act of reading. The protagonist Meena and her companion character Max was the right combination that all children loves. Her parents being a distant character making Meena an independent child of her choices. The context of Meena is a page-turner to readers.
3. Story with suspense and novelty, and has dialogues.
‘What next…‘ is what goes in the minds of the young readers. Readers always welcome suspense and novelty in what they hear and see. Readers were in suspense at many instances. They were thinking jaw-dropped what is “worse still”, who is that “…one person in the world who hated books more than Meena”, what is next after “One morning…”, why “Max didn’t come…where she could be?”. In addition to Meena’s shouts of hate of books, close relationship between she and Max and their continuous conversation, her loud thinking and conversation with all the animals jumping out of the books over which she and Max tumbled with were as livelily as happening in front of us. It seems all the animals almost stood still when she shouted “Stop!”…”Go Back”. Children do not appreciate a story which is not lively, without conversation in it.
4. Story with an impactful ending
Unlike adults perceived about children,listening to something purposeless is a not part of children’s trait. They do love to unpack a message that could preferably come with a satisfying ending.They hate someone or a book preaching on them, they rather love to unpack the message by themselves with an effort which lies embedded.
Meena’s story definitely changed the mind of readers who hate books as Meena did. Meena realised that there are so many interesting things inside books that made her began to read. She opened the eyes of adults like her parents who think children like Meena would never read.Had Meena knew there are such many interesting things in book or such were provided to her, she would have already been reading books. The beauty of the story is the smooth and satisfying end with Meena’s positive change- she started reading!
5. Illustration is best fit with text and appealing to children
“And what is the use of a book” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversation?”. Illustrations help children understand and visualise the text story and allows the readers to analyse either just by seeing the pictures or comparing or aligning with the text. The expected illustration is the one that not only depict the text but also give additional exposition to the story.
A story without illustration could create a conflict between the reader and the book. Children’s books find its place among young readers by its appealing illustration. Meena eventually started reading just because she came to know that books have lot of animals, might be more or less with illustrations, in the books she had fallen over. Illustration by Leanne Franson in The Girl Who Hate Books is not as appealing as it could be, yet the illustrations have enough depiction of the story. The weakness of the illustration is trade-off with the strength of the other attributes that made the story lingers long in the mind of readers after it is over.
To conclude, no matter of the genre something that great stories have in common are the characters, the setting, the plot, the conflict and the resolution. Manjusha maintained a smooth flow of these five important components of a great story. A given set of usual patterns of successful children’s books does not necessarily predict the final taste to the readers. It is unpredictable, though. Nevertheless, Manjusha’s The Girl Who Hate Books could wrap the readers like me around and leaves us with a lasting value.
Jafa, M. (n.d.). Writing For Children. New Delhi: Children’s Book Trust.
Vellanki, V. (2016). Unlocking Shelves: Fosterning a Culture of Reading and Inclusion through Open Libraries ; Usha Mukunda in Conversation with Vivek Vellanki. Contemporary Education Dialogue, 157-165
 Lewis Carol: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland